Beyond Bond

Business - January 15th, 2013
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Apple may have recently regained its title as the world’s most valuable company, but when it comes to being cool, it remains a distant second behind Aston Martin.

James Bond’s car-maker of choice has topped the annual CoolBrands survey five years out of the last six, eclipsing a host of luxury and specialist manufacturers synonymous with style. In the cool-stakes, Aston Martin left Apple, Rolex and Harley-Davidson for dead.


by Matthew Hernon


An expert council and over two thousand British consumers take part in the survey, with voters asked to consider style, innovation, originality, authenticity, desirability and uniqueness. While being ‘cool’ is subjective, Aston Martin, for us, ticks all those boxes and more. According to Dr. Matthew Bennett, Aston Martin’s Asia-Pacific director, it is their intrinsic eye for quality and refusal to compromise on design that keeps them ahead of the rest.

“There is a consistency of purpose across everything we do,” he tells Weekender. “We strive for perfection. (Because of) the way we position ourselves, and the products we put out, people can identify with what we are doing and they want to be part of that. I remember watching BBC’s Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson was driving through the countryside in Wales and simply said, ‘It’s a V12, it’s an Aston Martin, what more do you want me to say?’ It takes an awful lot of building to get to that point.

Rapide Road Test

Weekender’s Mithun Soni puts the Rapide through its paces

The Rapide is Aston Martin’s first four-door “saloon” but that is not a word I would associate with it. This beast has the ability to turn it on when it wants to. For all you thrill seekers, it still has a 5.9-litre V12 with 470bhp and has the capability to carry four occupants to 188mph; not a speed any of us are likely to go… on public roads at least.

With this car, the owner will have it all. Whether you want to take the family and kids away for a weekend or speed away from a Porsche at the lights, Aston Martin have achieved a unique balance with this beautiful machine.

It’s a big car, at over five metres long and nearly two metres wide, and is no lightweight, either – the car weighs 1,950 kg. However, Aston’s assertion that this is a super-sized sports car stacks up: it’s agile, feels grippy and thumps along at a wicked pace thanks to that lovely V12.

The bonded aluminium chassis is a stretched version of Aston’s VH platform – seen elsewhere in the DB9, DBS and V8 Vantage. That means the Rapide is stiff and its suspension can be tuned accurately.

Aston Martin Rapide interior

The interior largely shares its style with the DB9 and is simply beautiful. Surrounded by leather, I can’t help but feel that the luxury aspect, in such a high performance car, is almost unheard of from other makers. It’s a very comfortable place to be, the double glazed windows block out any excessive exterior noise but you can still hear that sweet Aston V12 purring though; its absolutely marvellous to listen to.

If you’d prefer to listen to your own soundtrack, then the Bang & Olufsen stereo will also appeal, with front end speakers on the dashboard looking like they belong to a spacecraft. The rear seats are super-snug but look like something out of a concept car, and when you see the four-door amongst ordinary traffic it looks stunning – long, low and effortlessly stylish.

Aston Martin has a great following in Japan. There’s even an Aston Martin Drivers’ Club, which has track days as well as family outings. Being part of the Aston Martin brand is something which appeals to most, getting driver tuition in one of these super cars to get the most out of the experience is something I would definitely take advantage of. If only I owned one.

We haven’t got there by trying to appeal to the masses. What we sell is exclusivity. In almost 100 years of existence we have made roughly 55,000 cars, that is about the amount that Toyota makes in a couple of days. It shows you the size of our company.”

Aston Martin, AML1

Aston Martin has never tried to chase sales and it is not going to start now; it is far too classy for that. In Japan, which Bennett describes as “one of our biggest markets,” it expects to sell around 120 cars this year, an incredibly small number.

He admits that “it would be nice to sell a few more, but the long term exclusivity of the brand is far more important.” The sight of an Aston Martin on the road is a rarity and this simply adds to the allure.

The James Bond factor also helps. Could there possibly be a more stylish man on the planet endorsing your product? Sean Connery was the first Bond to do so, driving the DB5 in Goldfinger, in 1964.

Since then a wide range of Aston Martins have appeared in various 007 films, while the iconic DB5, armed – of course! – with machine guns, made a return in Skyfall, the 23rd instalment of the series.

Bennett is keen to point out that the Aston Martin name was already well known before it appeared as Bond’s car of choice. Its racing heritage is legendary after a lot of success on the circuit, most notably Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori’s victory at Le Mans in 1959. Both men, as well as chief engineer, Ted Cutting, sadly passed away earlier this year.

Aston Martin DBR1

As a fitting tribute, the DBR1, the car they won with, returned to the Curcuit de la Sarthe in June and was on display next to the team garage throughout the 2012 race.

The company’s founders, Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, started out with a vision to build stand-out vehicles that were not only a delight to drive, but also amazing to look at.

It is a philosophy the company has maintained throughout its ninety-nine year history. Even through times of extreme financial difficulty, it has never wavered in its commitment to producing quality over quantity.

“We are not prepared to sacrifice our long-term goals for short-term gains,” says Bennett. “2009 was the toughest year I have ever experienced as a salesman, yet throughout we continued investing in new products and improving our designs. It is a constant challenge, but our designers have something extremely precious and that is why we have been able to maintain such high standards.”

Since becoming independent from Ford in 2007, ending a 13 year association, Aston Martin have embarked on an aggressive product launching campaign.

In the past few years new models have included the V12, the One-77 and the four-door Rapide.

The latest, coinciding with their upcoming 100th anniversary, is the AM310 Vanquish, which will replace the DBS. The model transcends its majestic predecessor with a style that is second to none. Hardly surprising – it is, after-all, an Aston Martin, the coolest brand on the planet.

Interview by Matthew Hernon and Ray Pedersen.